An extravaganza of music and film will today take place in County Durham to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.

The celebrations – featuring stars from Durham’s BRASS festival and The Futureheads singer Barry Hyde – have a special relevance for a certain building.

The moon landing took place on 20th July 1969 and later the same year an innovative new structure was unveiled on the Sunny Blunts Estate in Peterlee.

The Apollo Pavilion – which, at that time, was a cutting-edge example of brutalist architecture – spans a small manmade lake. Built entirely of concrete, two murals are the structure’s only decorations.

Today (16th July), precisely 50 years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set off for the moon, a programme of entertainment will also celebrate the Apollo Pavilion’s 50th birthday.

Between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm, a free concert will take place at the structure featuring Oompah Brass and the New-Orleans-style band Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, who are both starring in Durham’s BRASS festival.

Also performing at the Apollo Pavilion will be Barry Hyde from The Futureheads, who has been working with children from local schools to write a song for the occasion.

Barry Hyde and children from Howletch Lane Primary School
Barry Hyde and children from Howletch Lane Primary School

After the music, there will be a free programme of space-themed films at the nearby Pavilion Community Centre. The programme, which kicks off at 3.45 pm, is as follows:

  • 3.45pm Wallace and Gromit – A Grand Day Out (U)
  • 4.15pm Moon Man (U)
  • 6.00pm A Trip to the Moon (U)
  • 6.15pm Lunar (U)
  • 6.25pm First Man (12A)

Free popcorn will be on offer between 2.30pm and 6.30pm, with artist Theresa Easton showing audience members how to make rocket-style popcorn holders.

The live music programme will kick off at 11.00 am with pupils from Shotton Hall’s theatre school previewing scenes from their new musical Pleasantville. At 11.30 am, Barry Hyde will take to the stage to play a number of The Futureheads’ hits.

The BRASS bus will then roll into town, delivering Mr Wilson’s Second Liners for a performance beginning at 12.05 pm. This will be followed by a medley of moon-inspired songs from the East Durham Dementia Friendly Choir, starting at 12.50 pm.

Next up will be Oompah Brass – whose show starts at 1.10 pm – before Barry Hyde returns at 1.55 pm. Accompanied by more than 500 local schoolchildren, Barry will perform Standing on the Moon, a song specially commissioned for the occasion.

Concertgoers are encouraged to bring their own picnics.

Designed by the artist Victor Pasmore, the Apollo Pavilion was the brainchild of the Peterlee Development Corporation. The Pavilion underwent extensive renovations, which concluded in 2009. These refurbishments earned a number of awards, including Civic Trust and RIBA Awards.

In March 2019, as part of the Apollo Pavilion’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Artichoke – the producers of Durham’s Lumiere Festival – commissioned German artists Mader Wiermann to put on a light installation at the structure.

Apollo Pavilion light installation
The light installation at the Apollo Pavilion

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, Cllr Joy Allen, said, “The first moon landing was one of the most memorable moments in modern day history, and by happy coincidence it came at the same time as the building of the structure we now know as the Apollo Pavilion.”

“There was a desire locally to mark the Apollo mission and it was decided naming the structure in its honour was the perfect way.”

“We know the Pavilion has always divided opinion, but the light installation earlier this year proved how much pride local people have in it.”

“We are delighted to be continuing the 50-year celebrations on the anniversary of the Apollo mission and it promises to be an excellent day with some great musical performances lined up and some classic films – all free of charge.”

“I’d encourage everyone to come along and join in the fun.”

(This article’s main image shows Peterlee’s Apollo Pavilion.)

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